Einstein famously said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” A very sensible approach when you consider that without a problem you have nothing to solve.

Yet in the world of marketing many brands shy away from using such a bold and brave tactic to create their brand strategy. Instead, many marketers fear focusing on the negatives of a consumer experience will highlight a brand’s failings (or that of an industry as a whole) creating even bigger problems for the brand to overcome. All too often much more time and effort goes into identifying a brand’s USP’s rather than its weaknesses?

But identifying a problem can be a liberating and powerful creative springboard. When brands truly get to the bottom of what frustrates their customer they can create inspiring solutions that people not only want, they positively need.

But finding the problem, as Einstein identified, can be easier said than done. It requires good honest research to pinpoint issues that plague your consumer. Problems are not always big, nor obvious. In fact it’s often the simplest issues that consumers are most passionate about. That’s why when a genuine problem is solved the result is a compelling brand story.

For new brands solving real problems offers even greater opportunities to build stronger bonds with their consumers, especially when a solution is the reason why a brand exists.

By questioning ‘What if?’ brands will generate the insight they need to build solution-based strategies that differentiate them from their competitors. Asking ‘What if?’ very often leads to groundbreaking innovation and pioneering change.

Below are six instances where brave brands have asked ‘What If?’ to produce creative solutions to real problems and build more meaningful consumer experiences.

  • ‘What if you never missed a flower delivery again’ promoted Bloom & Wild to pioneer a new approach to sending flowers – bouquets in cardboard boxes slim enough to fit through a letterbox. The key to their success is their innovative delivery method.
  • ‘What if an app could create a new way to get around cities’ underpinned the meteoric rise of Uber, who reported 15.8million active users across the globe in July 2016. The app, originally designed to provide a solution for busy commuters struggling to find empty taxis, made a booking in seconds and used GPS technology to show where the cab was and how long it would take to arrive.
  • ‘What if a hotel helped you plan your entire stay’ inspired hotels.com to launch a mobile concierge service that provided a one-stop shop for their guests’ entire journey, connecting the dots between where guests are staying and what they can do in the local area.
  • ‘What if consumers could try on our clothes without getting undressed’ has inspired brands including H&M, LKBennett and even Tesco to introduce virtual reality technology that allows shoppers to ‘try on’ an outfit without ever changing clothes. The North Face took things even further by creating an entire virtual environment that places the customer in the middle of Yosemite National Park.
  • ‘What if you knew exactly where your pizza was right up to the moment it was delivered’ motivated Domino’s to develop their ‘Pizza Tracker’ app. In just four clicks customers can order a pizza and track their order live with GPS technology that trails your pizza from the oven to your door.
  • ‘What if you didn’t have to pay for shaving technology you don’t need’ spawned a new brand concept – the Dollar Shave Club (quickly emulated in the UK as the £1 Shave Club). The Dollar Shave Club offered resentful consumers a cost effective alternative to overpriced, technology-loaded razors.

Just think, what if more brands were brave enough to ask What If…?